Story last updated at 1:23 p.m. Saturday, August 31, 2002

Candidates unveil fish platform in Homer
Sepp Jannotta
GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE Fran Ulmer on Wednesday made Homer the first stop on her Tour de Fran "whistle stop" campaign road trip that will take her from Homer to Fairbanks in six days. While in Homer, Ulmer unveiled her fisheries platform as she visited with some commercial fishermen at an early morning campaign stop at the Kachemak Gear Shed. As most people expected, Ulmer won the Democratic primary and will face Republican Sen. Frank Murkowski in the race for governor in November. With perhaps a half dozen people looking on, Ulmer pledged to form a "Partnership for Change" with commercial fishing groups to promote the long-term health of Alaska's seafood industry. Ulmer handed out a pamphlet spelling out her plans for the state's fisheries. She said she expected to have the document posted on her Web site -- Key to her plan is the enhancement of the marketing efforts for Alaska's seafood industry through direct funding from the state for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute as well as for community-based niche marketing efforts. Ulmer said that the most pressing issue facing the commercial fishing industry is the erosion of prices due to the commercial farming of salmon abroad. "I don't propose that we farm salmon," she said. "Supply isn't the problem. We simply need to increase the demand for our wild salmon products." Another idea Ulmer touted was the notion of tax credits for processors who invest in the kind of technological upgrades necessary to bring the industry into a more competitive stance. "Right now, they're pretty invested in old technology," Ulmer said of the processors. Ulmer also restated her wariness regarding the issue of processor quota shares as it has been applied to the Bering Sea crab fishery. Republican Paul Seaton, who defeated Drew Scalzi for House District 35 seat in Tuesday's primary, was on hand to listen to Ulmer's fisheries talk. Seaton, who said he was at the function as a fisherman and not as a politician, was complimentary of a number of Ulmer's ideas, including her marketing plan. "That's what I've been supporting all along, that we need niche marketing strategies, not the blanket marketing approach," Seaton said.

THE ROANOKE ISLAND got a new skipper on Tuesday as the U.S. Coast Guard held a change of command ceremony to honor the retirement of Lt. Chris Holmes, who leaves the Coast Guard after a 20-year career, the last three of which were served as captain of the Roanoke Island. Holmes, who will retire to his horse ranch in Anchor Point, addressed his crew and his family in an emotional speech, thanking them all for their dedication and support. Lt. Kevin King, 30, will replace Holmes as the Roanoke Island's commanding officer. "It's a great honor to get this position, this command," King said. "And I'm even happier that it is here in Alaska and in Homer." King served the past three years at the Integrated Support Command post in Kodiak. King has also served aboard ships based in Cordova and Ketchikan. King said he spent the past week and a half working with Holmes on the transition, getting a feel for how the ship has been run, its crew and the local area. The Roanoke Island is a 110-foot Coast Guard patrol boat that works primarily in search and rescue and fisheries enforcement. Homeland security is now one of the primary tasks for the Roanoke Island. In the past year, the vessel's crew has performed 10 search-and-rescue missions and boarded 70 different vessels for recreational and fisheries inspections. But the majority of the Roanoke Island's operating hours have been spent patrolling and monitoring the security zone around the Valdez oil terminal. The vessel was the first security force to report to Valdez in the hours following the Sept. 11 attacks. King said he expected that the Roanoke Island would continue to spend much of its time attending to homeland security duties, though search and rescue would remain its first priority.

THE SEAFAIR SAFETY RODEO gets under way on Monday with a 1 p.m. U.S. Coast Guard helicopter rescue demonstration and a parade of locally made boats followed by a series of competitions. All the action will take place on the beach alongside the Coast Guard cutter Sedge, near the entrance to the small boat harbor. Seafair, which is sponsored by the Homer Chamber of Commerce, is designed to promote boating safety among commercial, charter and pleasure boat fleets. Following the parade, the competitions kick off, with boat crews and individuals competing in the survival-suit relay, and damage-control trainer operations. Entry is $100 per boat, and a crew consists of four people who are or have been employed on a vessel. There is no fee for individual entries. The Mariner of the Year award presentation will follow the competitions. In addition, there will be free EPIRB testing, an oyster-slurping contest, a fish-filleting contest and a line-heaving contest. Various prizes will be awarded, including the grand prize for the winning boat -- a survival raft repack donated by First National Bank of Alaska and Eagle Enterprises. Entry forms and guidelines are available at: the Homer Chamber of Commerce, the Harbormaster's office, Helly Hansen, Kachemak Gear Shed, Nomar, Eagle Enterprises, Coal Point Trading and the fuel dock. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call the chamber at 235-7740.

BRISTOL BAY RED KING CRAB harvest quota for the October fishery will be 20 percent higher this year, according to the Dutch Harbor Fisherman. State fishery managers announced in mid-August that the fishery is targeted to bring in 9.2 million pounds this year, 2 million more than the 2001 quota. Resource analysts say the higher quota wasn't a surprise. Last year's catch caused some to predict that stocks were increasing, and surveys by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game confirmed it. "It's good for the fleet, and good for revenue generation to the community," said Frank Kelty, the Dutch Harbor natural resources analyst. The quota increase couldn't have come at a better time, Kelty said. With crab counts down worldwide, as well as other factors, prices could increase the $4.80 per pound received last year.

Crabbers in the Adak region are also taking note of the potential high prices. They will have their own fishery in the Petrel Bank area in October with a 500,000-pound harvest.

THE U.S. COMMISSION ON OCEAN POLICY heard from U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens last week on the issue of ocean resources. At the commission's Anchorage meeting, Stevens warned against wholesale closures of water to Alaska's oil and fishing industries, the Associated Press reported. Stevens, R-Alaska, told commissioners he did not want waters closed off. "I'm going to oppose anything that sets up a process of withdrawals off our shore that's not managed by the local people," he said. Stevens made his remarks to the 16-member panel, set up in 2000 by Congress, during hearings reviewing U.S. ocean policy as well as impacting factors such as pollution, fishing, development and transportation. A report of the panel's findings could make its way to the president as early as next spring, others have reported, and some speculate it will have a similar impact as the 1969 Stratton Commission report, which led to the formation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sepp Jannotta can be reached at